Filed under my ever growing collection labeled
“I keep thinking I’ve seen it all…. …I keep being wrong.”
…By Daren Butler
ISTANBUL | Fri Jul 3, 2009 8:21am EDT
(Reuters) – What happens when you put a Muslim imam, a Christian priest, a rabbi and a Buddhist monk in a room with 10 atheists?
Turkish television station Kanal T hopes the answer is a ratings success as it prepares to launch a gameshow where spiritual guides from the four faiths will seek to convert a group of non-believers.
The prize for converts will be a pilgrimage to a holy site of their chosen religion — Mecca for Muslims, the Vatican for Christians, Jerusalem for Jews and Tibet for Buddhists.
But religious authorities in Muslim but secular Turkey are not amused by the twist on the popular reality game show format and the Religious Affairs Directorate is refusing to provide an imam for the show.
“Doing something like this for the sake of ratings is disrespectful to all religions. Religion should not be a subject for entertainment programs,” High Board of Religious Affairs Chairman Hamza Aktan told state news agency Anatolian after news of the planned program emerged.
The makers of “Penitents Compete” are unrepentant and reject claims that the show, scheduled to begin broadcasting in September, will cheapen religion.
“We are giving the biggest prize in the world, the gift of belief in God,” Kanal T chief executive Seyhan Soylu told Reuters.
“We don’t approve of anyone being an atheist. God is great and it doesn’t matter which religion you believe in. The important thing is to believe,” Soylu said.
The project focuses attention on the issue of religious identity in European Union-candidate Turkey, where rights groups have raised concerns over freedom of religion for non-Muslim minorities.
Detractors of the ruling AK Party government, which is rooted in political Islam but officially secular, accuse it of having a hidden Islamist agenda, a charge it denies.
Some 200 people have so far applied to take part in the show and the 10 contestants will be chosen next month.
A team of theologians will ensure that the atheists are truly non-believers and are not just seeking fame or a free holiday.
This show sounds like holding a debate of the GOP presidential candidates before the audience of The Daily Show. Surreal much.
I wouldn’t be a contestant on such a disgusting show, but if were somehow forced to play, I’d probably just try to make friends, work on motorcycles, chat about life, look at each other’s family photos, commiserate about our respective challenges in life, and try to be the best person of faith I can be without reeking of it, etc.
….and, maybe, if it truly feels relevant and organic without agenda, I might eventually actually share a bit about my faith life including my times of doubt — but probably only if they ask… It’d take a few weeks or months and the TV producers would run out of patience with me. As I see it, you can’t argue people into belief in God, however, you might be able to love them to it. If someone feels love, and actually is loved, and they are loving as well — they know God (whether the believe in Him/Her or not).
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8
p.s. on a related note, But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15 (Notice how believers are instructed not to be aggressive about sharing/imposing their faith, but rather, to respond if asked.)
Wolsey is an ordained United Methodist pastor and the author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity